EDITORIAL: Sex education must evolve with culture
Public schools need to teach their students about consent
The Center for American Progress conducted a study regarding sex education in America's public schools. Said study found that the majority of students enrolled in these schools do not know how to effectively discern between healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships. The study found that only 24 states and the District of Columbia actually mandate sexual education, and only eight of those states, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia, require discussion of sexual assault and the idea of consent within those classes.
In light of the rather recent explosion of public discourse regarding sexual assault and the necessity of consent, it is clear that within our nation there is a strong cultural movement attempting to shift away from the ignorant “boys will be boys” sort of mentality and toward serious change, with the aim of mitigating sexual assault to the highest possible extent. The #MeToo movement, which began to make significant progress in 2017, exemplifies this cultural shift. The sentiment associated with this movement continues to be extremely relevant, especially after the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing of testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh last week. With that in mind, it seems reasonable to say that, nationwide, our public schools’ curriculum should shift and evolve along with this culture.
Some states, such as Tennessee and Montana, only stress the perceived importance of abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases in sexual education. But research has shown that students who learn about sex from these classes rather than more comprehensive programs are actually more likely to have sex than their counterparts. In other words, classes like this are ineffective.
Young people learn about sex from a multitude of sources, such as their friends, the media, their school health classes, religion and family. All of these sources of information, though, are probably rarely consistent with one another and can clearly cause confusion for the youth. While it would seemingly be ideal for young people to learn about sexual assault and consent early on from their families, this is clearly not a reliable way for them to fully understand the issue — especially considering that many families could possibly downplay its significance or ignore its seriousness altogether. This is why public schools across the nation must essentially take the issue into their own hands.
A universal policy that mandates the discussion of sexual assault and consent in their sexual education classes is necessary if we are to truly address this issue on a national scale. In this day and age, it is time for us as a nation to start taking more serious steps to prevent these things. States that ignore this in the face of everything that has been happening in the public sphere with regard to this issue are turning their back on our country’s future. The necessity of consent in terms of sexual relations should be made clear to our youth early on.
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